Cities nearly obliterated by natural disasters

Rescuers search for survivors through the rubble of collapsed buildings on Wednesday in Amatrice, Italy.

(CNN)When Mayor Sergio Pirozzi looked over the ruins of his historic Italian town on Wednesday, his assessment was heartbreaking.

"The town is no more," he said. "Help us."
A magnitude 6.2 earthquake wiped out Amatrice, a town known for its famed Amatriciana pasta dish.
    Amatrice was getting ready to hold a festival to celebrate the centuries-old recipe this weekend. Instead, it joins a plethora of cities virtually taken off the map by natural disasters.
    Here are five cities nearly annihilated by disaster, and one on the brink of extinction:

    Bhuj, India

    A woman walks to her tent on the outskirts of Bhuj, India, after an earthquake left tens of thousands homeless.
    When: January 26, 2001
    What happened: A magnitude 7.7 earthquake devastated Gujarat state in 2001, killing more than 20,000 people and destroying 339,000 buildings.
    In Bhuj, where 200,000 people had lived, "nothing is standing there. It is completely devastated," Indian Defense Minister George Fernandes said at the time. "Hardly anyone could have managed to survive."

    Bam, Iran

    Quake victims sit outside a tent after an earthquake decimated the Iranian city of Bam. More than 30,000 people were killed.
    When: December 26, 2003
    What happened: Catastrophic tremors leveled much of the ancient city of Bam, killing over 30,000 people and damaging or destroying 85% of the buildings.
    The United States, Britain, Turkey, Russia and other countries joined to help the victims.

    Banda Aceh, Indonesia

    Family members carry away the body of a realative in Banda Aceh after a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami.
    When: December 26, 2004
    What happened: A magnitude 9.0 quake released the same amount of energy as a 100-gigaton bomb. The quake lasted up to 10 minutes and spawned a tsunami that swallowed much of Sumatra island, sweeping entire families out to sea.
    "Flying over the city of Banda Aceh in northern Sumatra looked like flying over a place that had just been hit by a nuclear weapon -- completely flattened," then-US Secretary of State Colin Powell said. "More than just flattened -- scraped clean down to bare earth."
    More than 227,800 people died in India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania and Bangladesh from the quake and tsunami. At least 1.7 million people were displaced in 14 countries.

    Port-au-Prince, Haiti

    Residents devastated by the Haiti earthquake live in a tent city near Port-au-Prince.
    When: January 12, 2010
    What happened: A catastrophic earthquake killed at least 220,000 people -- and as many as 316,000 people -- in and around the capital city of Port-au-Prince.
    The quake destroyed almost 100,000 houses and left more than 180,000 damaged.
    Adding to the calamity, UN peacekeepers from Nepal likely caused a cholera epidemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said. More than 9,000 Haitians died.
    The recovery has been slow and excruciating. Five years after the quake, 64,000 people were still displaced. This month, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon indicated the United Nations is preparing compensation for the cholera outbreak.

    Minamisanriku, Japan

    A rescue worker looks under a rock in Minamisanriku, Japan, after an earthquake and tsunami devastated the town.
    When: March 11, 2011
    What happened: A magnitude 9.0 quake set off an even more devastating tsunami that washed away entire villages and swept 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean.
    The town of Minamisanriku was destroyed by the tsunami. About 9,500 people -- roughly half the town's population -- went missing and were presumed dead.
    Across Japan, more than 20,000 people were killed by the earthquake and tsunami, which also spawned a nuclear power plant disaster.

    Shishmaref, Alaska

    Residents voted to move the village of Shishmaref, Alaska, after eroding land caused houses to tumble into the water.
    When: To be determined
    What will happen: Global warming is expected to cause the flooding and erosion of at least 12 villages on the western coast of Alaska, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
    On August 16, Alaskan village of Shishmaref voted to surrender to global warming and move the village inland. Already, houses have tumbled into the water, and others have been moved to stable land.